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Another step forward for the Apostolic Constitution

And poor old Rowan Williams is slapped down again

By on Monday, 12 July 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury addresses the General Synod (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

The Archbishop of Canterbury addresses the General Synod (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

“This Synod defeat of archbishops should be celebrated by many, will massively increase chance for Ordinariate to succeed,” tweeted Ruth Gledhill of the Times on Sunday. She was referring to a last-minute amendment to the legislation introducing women bishops in the Church of England, tabled by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York – as one Anglican blogger complained on the all-comers platform The General Synod Blog, “without speaking to any other group, just days before Synod”. The amendment would have allowed traditionalist parishes to have an alternative male bishop if they didn’t want a woman.

So it was voted down: another half-cock idea bites the dust. It was always ridiculous to decide that women could be ordained to the Anglican “priesthood” but that they couldn’t be bishops yet. If someone is a priest, it should automatically be possible to make them a bishop. I won’t go into the laughable ecclesiological incoherences of the two archbishops’ latest scheme: we all know that the C of E doesn’t do rational theology (see my blog on the Jeffrey John affair).

The point is that Ruth Gledhill on this occasion got it dead right; this vote clarifies beyond peradventure for Anglo-Catholics what the issues are. As the Anglo-Catholic blog commented on the Synod vote, “it has long been evident that the Church of England does not really want us, love us or care for us despite its feeble pretence to the contrary … Why would you seek to secure a begrudging and precarious existence in the margins … when you can have the fullness of life in communion with a billion like-minded brothers and sisters? Who asks for a scorpion when a father is offering bread?”

So the die is now cast. It will be two or three years before the first women bishops come off the assembly line (when they do, “flying bishops” will be abolished). It will all take time, but there is no shortage of that. And the first Ordinariates, I predict, will be successfully up and running long before then. 

  • David Lindsay

    Earlier this year, a meeting at Pusey House, Oxford heard the Reverend Philip North, a well-known figure in such circles, hit the nail on the head: there is no money out of which to pay or house Ordinariate clergy, and “If we reach a point where staying is not an option, then traditional conversion is far more likely to offer the kind of enrichment and ministry that we know now.” Precisely. Although it must be said that anyone who believes the claims of the See of Rome must submit to it immediately and regardless of any other consideration, while anyone who does not believe those claims cannot submit to it under any circumstance.

    There are going to be three thriving Ordinariates, one in India, another in South Africa with roots in the Order of Ethiopia, and the third in the Torres Strait; their missionaries, like those from the developing world in general and from Eastern Europe, cannot possibly arrive here too soon. The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, which its thriving missions in Sudan and Kenya, may yet produce one or more Ordinariates. But the whole thing was never designed with England in mind, and the Church of England needs to get over itself. One of the most senior figures in Forward in Faith, but based a long way from London, recently told me that the Ordinariate proposal was “for the Australians, it's nothing to do with England”.

    That constituency, and probably that organisation, produced both of the homosexually inclined bishops appointed under George Cary, one of whom is still in office while still living with his very long-term male partner. As Cardinal Hume said of those whom he had to turn away in 1992-4, “I can cope with married priests or celibate priests, but not those in between”. There are an awful lot of those in between, including at the very highest levels of Forward in Faith. But they seem to be the people in it keenest on the Ordinariate. Should we be?

    This proposal may be playing well in London, at Oxford and on the South Coast. But in all parts North (and, no doubt, West), it is being dismissed as an irrelevance and an absurdity. I come from a USPG missionary background, and I am an erstwhile Chapel Warden of Saint Chad's College, Durham. I have given up counting the number of old friends who have told me things like, “If I were going to become a Roman Catholic, then I would just get on and do it”, and, even better, “If you are going to do it, then you should do it properly, and become part of a normal Roman diocese and parish”. Quite. No one I know has told me anything else. No one.

    If they went down the Ordinariate road in this country, then, theologically, they would be as Catholic as the Pope and full members of the Patriarchate of the West, the Latin Church, whose Patriarch also happens to be the Pope. Pastorally, however, they would be no such thing, but rather just another category of oddball to be avoided, or ignored, or never heard of, by normal Catholics, including bishops. They deserve better. And they know it.

  • nytor

    “If someone is a priest, it should automatically be possible to make them a bishop.”

    This is not the case in Orthodoxy, where married men can be priests but not become bishops.

    I suspect it will also be the case in Catholicism if the Church ever decides to ordain married men.